January 29, 2004
Women Hold Babies On The Left To Connect To Emotional Half Of the Brain

Victoria Bourne and Brenda Todd of the University of Sussex in England have found that women hold babies on the side of their bodies that connect to that side of the brain which is dominant in the processing of emotions.

The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and usually helps to process emotions, explains Bourne. So holding the baby on the left-hand side may help to direct the sight of emotionally charged information, such as tears or laughter, to the specialized right hemisphere for processing, she says.

Keep in mind that the left brain gets input from the right side of the body and the right brain gets input from the left side. It is interesting to note that the heart is traditionally associated with the seat of emotions and it happens to be on the left side of the body and that side is the side that connects to the center of emotional processing in the brain in most people.

If you want to find out which side of your brain does most of your emotional processing then take this quick test. The test is too short to be definitive. If anyone knows of a longer test with more pictures please post a link to it in the comments.

The abstract for the research paper more clearly explains what they did. The researchers used both people who have left-brain dominance for emotional processing and people who did not.

Previous research has indicated that 70-85% of women and girls show a bias to hold infants, or dolls, to the left side of their body. This bias is not matched in males (e.g. deChateau, Holmberg & Winberg, 1978; Todd, 1995). This study tests an explanation of cradling preferences in terms of hemispheric specialization for the perception of facial emotional expression. Thirty-two right-handed participants were given a behavioural test of lateralization and a cradling task. Females, but not males, who cradled a doll on the left side were found to have significantly higher laterality quotients than right cradlers. Results indicate that women cradle on the side of the body that is contralateral to the hemisphere dominant for face and emotion processing and suggest a possible explanation of gender differences in the incidence of cradling.

One thing that would be interesting to discover is whether less emotionally intense women are less likely to prefer one side over the other for holding a baby.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 January 29 05:12 PM  Brain Emotions

auntulna said at January 30, 2004 9:43 AM:

How about this? 85% of people are right handed. When you hold baby on the left, your right hand is free!

Slithy Tove said at January 31, 2004 9:57 PM:

Previous research has indicated that 70-85% of women and girls show a bias to hold infants, or dolls, to the left side of their body. This bias is not matched in males

I agree with auntulna. Occam's Razor says the women are simply freeing up their dominant hand. So why do males use their dominant hand? Hypothesis: because they carry babies (and dolls) less frequently, are not as confident doing it, and therefore use their 'better' hand to perform the task. Other 'holding' activities males do frequently involve the non-dominant hand. Example: horseback riding, in which a right-handed person usually holds the reins in the left hand, which frees the right hand to open gates, swing a polo mallet, or whatever else the rider is doing.

Randall Parker said at January 31, 2004 11:31 PM:

Auntulna and Slithy: The researchers have controlled for right-handedness in their experiment. The tendency to cradle on a side tracks more strongly with the side of the brain that processes emotions than it does with handedness.

Bob Hawkins said at February 2, 2004 12:40 PM:

I wonder if people tend to marry someone with opposite hemisphericity. (That would allow them to walk arm-in-arm with each keeping optimal track of the other's emotions.)

Victoria said at February 10, 2004 2:21 AM:


I'm actually one of the authors on this paper! Although the handedness explanation is intuatively appealing it has very little support. Both left and right handed individuals show the left cradling bias, but they justify this in different ways. Right handed people explain it in terms of leaving the stronger hand free, left handed people in terms of using the stronger hand to hold the baby. Also, Randall is right, all of our participants were right handed.

Hope this helps to clear things up!

Monica Roberts said at September 27, 2005 10:32 AM:

I consider myself a naturally creative,left-handed woman ... with some ambidextrous tendencies, i.e. using my right hand for handsewing, scissor cutting, ironing, pulling weeds, scrubbing dishes, kicking (foot) and violin playing. I was forced to play my fiddle with my right hand, so that every bow (hopefully) would move in the same direction in orchestra. The fact that I constantly lost my place, and the bowing was off anyway, didn't seem to matter a wit to the teacher/conductor. Therefor, I have never been the great violinist I always thought I should be, which got me out of alot of practicing in my goofy way of sorting through things. It would appear I favor my left hand by giving it the loftier jobs I'm capable of, such handwriting, eating, waving, opening jars and patting babies to sleep, all of which I excell at. The more confusing jobs attributed to my handedness are: taking directions in the car (my daughter is always saying "no not that left .... your other left), reading instructions for mechanical devices, crossing myself in church, trying to place my hand correctly whilst saying the pledge, and cutting the nails on my left hand (sometimes hurtful). But, without fail, I always carried my three children on my right hip ... of course not all at once ... and I too believe it's always better to leave your stronger arm available for any unforseen happenstance, caused by the other little one you're probably holding on to in some fashion.

Daniel Estorga said at March 27, 2006 11:31 AM:

i agree, i always hold my son on my left side when we nap. I always thought is was wierd, but it now amkes sense.

Ellegkay said at December 22, 2013 8:08 AM:

I'm right handed but carried my babies on my right side. Holding them on the left side feels strange and uncomfortable. I've recently noticed that my youngest daughter (who used both hands for the first 4 years of her life) cradles her baby dolls on her right side even though she is right handed.

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